Special Reports

Bill targets renewable energy devices

MANATEE — State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, has again filed a proposal that would give the Florida Legislature authority to grant a property tax exemption for renewable energy devices, such as solar panels.

Bennett filed an identical measure last year, but it was unsuccessful.

“There are those who will ask why I’m filing this now, and why not wait until the 2011 regular session? I say, if not now, then when?” Bennett said Monday.

“For far too long, we have delayed renewable energy in Florida, and now, we have a chance to put something in place that could have a real impact within a year or two. Homeowners and businesses would see some real savings, and we’d put Florida on a path to expanding our use of renewable energy sources,” Bennett said.

Fixed by law, the value and the duration of the exemption would be limited to the original cost of the device or 10 years, whichever comes first, according to the senator’s office.

Bennett said Monday the measure probably would not be considered during a special session slated to start today in Tallahassee.

Gov. Charlie Crist convened the special session to address a single issue: Whether voters should be allowed to revise the constitution to ban oil exploration and drilling in state waters.

State Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota, who has proposed a number of bills to encourage use of alternative energy, said he thought Bennett’s measure might have a better chance this year than it did last year.

“We all have to get aggressive on renewable energy,” Fitzgerald said.

“Any idea that moves forward will get a much better hearing than it did in the past, it’s one silver lining that came with the oil spill.

“We’re going to be looking for constructive ideas to move forward,” he said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.